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Boy killed in horrific dog attack

Police were warned about ‘dog breeding’ in February


A HOUSE in Liverpool, where a four-year-old boy was killed this week by a dog believed to be a ‘pit-bull’ type, had been reported to Merseyside police months earlier, following concerns over dog breeding at the property.

John Paul Massey was killed by a dog at the premises in Wavertree, just after midnight on Monday. His grandmother, Helen Foulkes, was injured while trying to save her grandson and was treated in hospital.

Dog handlers and armed response officers were called to the house to find the dog, which the boy’s Grandma had managed to remove from the premises, in an ‘agitated’ state. Paramedics who arrived on the scene battled to save John-Paul's life, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The animal was a family dog, although the identity of the owner is still being investigated by police. it is believed he may have belonged to the boy’s uncle.

A post-mortem examination of the dog, which was shot dead at the scene, took place on Tuesday, when police were expected to officially confirm the dog’s breed.

‘The process of identification of whether a dog is illegal under the Dangerous Dogs Act takes time. It is a complex issue and further forensic examinations are ongoing to establish the type of dog involved in this attack,’ said spokeswoman said. If the dog is confirmed as a dog which is banned in the UK, then his owner could face prosecution.

Traumatised

John Paul's 13-year-old brother was also in the house at the time of the attack. Although he was not injured, police said he had been left ‘deeply traumatised’ by the event.

Animal psychologist, Dr Roger Mugford, has questioned whether the dog should have been destroyed by police and said their investigation may have been helped if it was still alive. Dr Mugford, who has given evidence at a number of dangerous dog cases, said: ‘A dog that was involved in any serious bite injury or an attack on a human should be retained as forensic evidence. We can't screen every dog in the country and say this one is dangerous, this one is safe. But at least when a dog is involved in any serious incident it should be retained as evidence, tested and then possibly euthanised - but in a calm way.’

Neighbours came forward to express their grief at the death of John-Paul, who was described as a lovely little boy who had been looking forward to Christmas. People in the area also said that there had been a problem with ‘dangerous dogs’ in the area for a while.

Tribute

Pupils at St Clare's RC Primary School, where John Paul had started nursery classes in September, are being offered support by teachers after being told of his death on Monday.

Head teacher Michael Hennessey said: ‘He was a friendly, cheerful little boy who was bright and enthusiastic in everything he did. He will be very sadly missed, and the thoughts of everyone at the school are with his family. We broke the news to our children first thing this morning during assembly, and they joined in with prayers for John-Paul and his family.

‘Staff are now working very closely with pupils to make sure they are given the right level of emotional support to help them through this difficult period.’

Merseyside Police have confirmed that they received a call as long ago as February from a local housing officer, who reported that dog breeding at the house. However, at the time the police said that it ‘wasn’t a police matter’, and no action was taken to inspect the property. However, since the fatal attack, Merseyside Police have confirmed that this advice had been incorrect, and that the force would now launch an investigation into the call made 10 months ago.

The Police spokesperson also said that a ‘dangerous dog’ dog expert should have spoken to the caller and visited the house.

String

This attack is the latest in a string of maulings - most of them fatal - which have hit the headlines over the last year or two. In February 2009, three-and-a-half month old Jaden Joseph Mack, from Mid Glamorgan, was fatally injured by a ‘Jack Russell’ and ‘Staffordshire bull terrier’.

The two pet dogs attacked Jaden, who was temporarily put on a pillow on a table by his grandmother at her home in Caerphilly, after she fell asleep. The dogs were destroyed.

In January 2008, Chloe Grayson was attacked by a Rottweiler dog at a house in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, leaving her scarred for life. Chloe Grayson's parents managed to fight off the 10-stone animal, which pounced on her in their neighbours' kitchen, but Chloe needed surgery on her face.

In December 2007, baby Archie-Lee Andrew Hirst was killed by a Rottweiler at his grandparents' home in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Attempts by his 16-year-old aunt to save him from the dog's jaws failed, and 13-month-old Archie-Lee died later in hospital. The Rottweiler was shot dead by a police marksman a few hours after the attack.

On 1 January 2007, five-year-old Ellie Lawrenson was killed by her uncle's dog at her grandmother's home in Merseyside, a story echoed by this latest sad story. It was later confirmed that the animal was a "pit bull terrier-type" banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Ellie's uncle was jailed for eight weeks after admitting owning a dog banned under the DDA. He had been warned about its behaviour the previous June. Ellie's grandmother, Jacqueline Simpson, was acquitted of manslaughter in relation to the attack. The dog was shot at the scene by Merseyside Police.

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